In Russia, It Only Costs $2 to Produce a Barrel of Oil

Photo from Business Insider
Photo from Business Insider

According to Deputy Energy Minister Kirill Molodstov, the average cost to produce a barrel of Russian oil is $2, possibly the lowest in the world.

“The average production cost for a barrel of Russian oil is about two dollars. The production cost of hard-to-recover and shelf reserves is higher – $20. Indicators also significantly vary depending on the mineral resources development cycle,” the energy minister said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

It doesn’t take a sophisticated analysis to figure out that a $2 production cost is among the world’s cheapest, if not the absolute lowest. The majority of Russia’s oil fields are onshore, which makes drilling, transport, and maintenance inexpensive. The sheer abundance and flow of oil also mean that companies do not need to urgently spend billions on exploring new fields, and the massive pipeline network inherited from the USSR makes transport cheap and simple.

How much it ‘costs’ to produce a barrel of oil is broken down into two main categories – capital expenditures and operational expenditures. Put more simply, how much a company spends on buying fields, exploring them, and setting up rigs and how much it costs to keep those fields and rigs up and running.

At the end of 2015, Gazprom Neft Board Chairman Alexander Dyukov said that the production costs at the company’s mature fields were between $12-15 per barrel. In the Russian oil industry, the capital expenditure cost per barrel in 2015 was between $6-7, and the average operating cost was about $5. Transport per barrel of crude ranged from $4.00-5.10, depending on where the cargo was headed, according to Denis Borisov, director of the EY Moscow Oil and Gas Center.

In February, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said that his company has one of the lowest production costs in the world.

“As far as production cost at the wellhead, we are one of the lowest – $2.70 per barrel,” he said. In September 2015, he estimated the cost of production to be $4.00 per barrel.

Oil companies worldwide boast about how much they can extract for the least amount of money – it pleases both shareholders and investors.

Lower oil prices generally bring down the production costs for companies. In Russia, where the ruble has dropped in tandem with oil prices, this is especially true. With production, labor, and transport costs fixed in rubles and sales in dollars, the oil companies benefit.

Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait can keep their production costs under $10 for similar reasons as Russia – an abundance of onshore projects that require little maintenance.

In the UK for example, it costs $52.50 to extract a barrel of oil, and between $30-41 in major producing countries such as the US, Norway, Nigeria, and Canada, according to data by Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consulting company with data on 65,000 oil and gas fields worldwide. CNN published a list using Rystad Energy data in November 2015.

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Companies operating in the North Sea can’t justify producing oil when the cost ($52.50) has surpassed the price per barrel, which is currently hovering near $40 per barrel of Brent crude, the European standard.

The most recent drop price in oil prices, credited to the massive supply overhang, has notoriously squeezed out the high-cost shale projects in North America and has made drilling in the Arctic fiscally impossible.

BP 2035 Energy Outlook

“For those of you with children, I think of the LNG market like a toddler, and they suddenly go through this growth spurt in front of your eyes. This is what I think is going to happen to the LNG market over the next 4-5 years.”

Spencer Dale, Chief Economist at BP, gives a presentation on the company’s 2035 Energy Outlook, touching on the US, Russia, China, and more.

Siberia for Sale

Vankor Field. Source:
Vankor Field in the Source:

Rosneft will sell stakes in two oil and gas fields to Indian companies. Earlier, Russia offered the same field to the Chinese, but with no luck. 

Russia’s top crude producer may sell nearly 50 percent stake in the company’s second-largest oil field, located in eastern Siberia.

If the proposed sale is realized, India’s state Oil and Natural Gas Corporation will increase its stake in Rosneft’s Vankor project to 26 percent, and a group of Indian companies (Oil India, Bharat Petroresources and Indian Oil) will scoop up 23.9 percent, Rosneft announced Wednesday. Rosneft will retain control over 50.1 percent of the project.

The oil field is estimated to have reserves of 520 million metric tons of oil and 182 billion cubic meters of natural gas, both natural and dissolved, according to Rosneft’s website. Covering 416 square kilometers, the field is slightly smaller than the country Andorra.

Separately, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin signed a legally binding agreement to sell a 29.9 percent interest in its Taas-Yuryakh Neftegasodobycha subsidiary, which produces oil in Russia’s Far East. Additionally, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) may be able to increase their share to 26 percent up from 15 percent. ONGC bought 15 percent of project shares in September for $1.3 billion.

In November 2014, Vladimir Putin personally offered China’s CNPC a 10 percent stake in the oil subsidiary, but the deal never went through. Rosneft ended up selling a 20% share in the project to BP in November 2015 for an estimated $750 million, according to Sechin.

By 2017, the field is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of crude per day, and also has 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves.

Combined, the Financial Times calculated that the two deals could raise up to $4 billion for the cash-strapped state giant.

Geographically, both fields offer close access to Asian markets.

Russia Begins Deepwater Drilling in Vietnam

Photo from Rosneft press release

Rosneft has started exploration drilling off the south coast of Vietnam, the company’s press service announced today.

The release highlights that it is the company’s first time drilling an international well as a sole operator. The Russian company, which has previously only operated deepwater offshore drilling inside of Russia, is hoping the project will give the company experience to tackle complicated domestic shelf projects that rely on American technology. Cooperation with Russian companies in offshore, Arctic, and shale drilling are banned by Western sanctions.

“I am sure that the experience gained in Vietnam will be used by the company not only in its activity in the southern seas; these acquired skills will find application in planning and implementation of upstream projects in remote areas,” Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said in the statement.

The expected recoverable reserves of natural gas are estimated at 12.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) with 0.6 million tons of gas condensate, according to the statement. At 162 meters sea depth and design depth of about 1380, the “deepwater” well wouldn’t be allowed inside of Russia under the current sanction regime.

The well is located in the Nam Con Son Basin, 370 kilometers off the southern Vietnamese coast and will be serviced by the USAt 162 meters sea depth and design depth of about 1380, the well located at Block 06.1, will be managed by US oilfield services provider Schlumberger.

At 162 meters sea depth and design depth of about 1380 meters, the well located at Block 06.1 will be managed by US oilfield services provider Schlumberger.

Rosneft – the world’s biggest producer at 5.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day – gained access to Vietnam’s offshore blocks when the Russian company acquired TNK-BP in March 2013. Rosneft already jointly produces gas from two offshore blocks, also in the Nam Con Son Basin. Rosneft works in cooperation with state-owned PetroVietnam and India’s ONGC in Block 06.1 and is the project operator in Block 05.3/11.

The gas fields in Block 06.1 Lai Tay and Lan Do, had an initial estimated 68 trillion cubic meters in gas reserves and condensate deposits. Drilling is carried out along with Japan Drilling Company (JDC).

Rosneft is the biggest gas producer in Vietnam, and in 2015, the gas produced in Block 06.1 satisfied 12% of Vietnam’s energy demand, and since it started pumping gas in June 2015, has produced a total of 46 billion cubic meters.

The foray into Vietnam should surprise no one, as Russia has long been building energy ties in Vietnam. As a token of partnership, Rosneft rival Gazprom Neft offered Petrovietnam partnership in an Arctic project. Beyond hydrocarbons, Vietnam has commissioned Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant.

Gas fields in Western Siberia – which helped make the Soviet Union and later Russia an energy power – are fast depleting, and projects in Vietnam and elsewhere are seen as cushions to keep both Rosneft and Russia’s oil output stable.

Louise Dickson

Oilman Aubrey McClendon Dies in Car Crash Day After Indictment  

Photo: Bloomberg

Aubrey McClendon, the billionaire largely credited for jump starting America’s fracking revolution, died in a car crash in Oklahoma City on March 2. The 56-year old was driving 40 mph over the speed limit and crashed into a bridge embankment. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

As the CEO Chesapeake Energy, he helped pioneer the shale oil boom in the United States. His fall from grace was rapid: the revolution he created depressed oil prices to record lows in 2008, and by 2013, he was forced out of the company.

The accident happened less than 24 hours after he was indicted by the United States Department of Justice for rigging leases on oil and natural gas bids.

Between 2007 and 2012 McClendon had “orchestrated a conspiracy between two large oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for the purchase of certain oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma,” according to the DOJ statement.

On Tuesday, he issued a statement disputing the antitrust charges, saying he had been “singled out”.

“I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name,” the statement said.

McClendon was accused of violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $1 million fine. As he points out in his letter, he is the only person in the oil and gas industry to have been accused of such a crime in 110 years, since the Sherman Act – which outlawed monopolistic business practices- was signed into law.

In 1989, McClendon co-founded Chesapeake, which is now the second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States.

Before oil prices crashed, Chesapeake was valued at $36 billion. By the time McClendon stepped down, the company’s market cap was $12 billion,

After leaving Chesapeake, the oil veteran raised billions to found American Energy Partners, where he was the chairman and chief executive.